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Many with mental illness too embarrassed to seek treatment deafening

Mental conditions such as psychosis are curable and the chances are even better with early treatment, said Institute of Mental Health (IMH) consultant Dr Sujatha Rao.

Dr Sujatha (below), who has been in the field for 14 years, said many people who suffer from mental illnesses do not realise the need for professional help or are too embarrassed to seek treatment.

In the event of a serious case or an emergency, sufferers can approach even general practitioners (GPs) for a first assessment. The GPs may then refer them to a specialist if necessary.

Dr Sujatha said early signs of psychosis - a condition that may be caused by mental illnesses such as schizophrenia or bipolar disorder - include hearing voices and feeling overtly suspicious of your surroundings. If left untreated, it may lead to delusions, hallucinations and disorderly behaviour.

Psychosis may be triggered by stress from work, social problems and family issues, she said.

She added that most psychosis patients are in their late teens, an age when they undergo a lot of changes in their lives and are vulnerable to stress.

This is where family members and friends play a huge role in helping those suffering from mental illnesses or conditions, she said.

"For example, if they become isolated, do not do well in school, lose sleep or their appetite and are always suspicious of their surroundings, it may be good to check on them," she said.

She added that early treatment is crucial because studies have shown that it improves the outcome of the illness.

There are also many avenues for help in Singapore, such as IMH's Community Health Assessment Team (Chat), a drop-in centre at *Scape at Orchard Road.

"If you are not feeling well, talk to someone you can trust and who can help you. Don't wait until it's too late," she said.